They call him“Remarkable” and it’s exactly what he is.
It’s a warm and sunny Saturday morning when I meet the big chestnut Thoroughbred at an Off Track Thoroughbred (OTTB) expo and horse show. He strides up to me and takes my breath away by his mere presence; leggy, barrel-chested and with a head as long as my torso. I have to look up to meet his eyes, and in them is a calm, quiet and gentle demeanor; he is more than happy to bring his head down to scratching level.
Tik Maynard is at the other end of the lead rope. Tik doesn’t have to look up to meet Remarkable’s eye and his gait is almost just as long as his four legged counterpart’s. It’s almost as if they are the same person split between two bodies. Calm, confident and quietly capturing everyone’s attention without even knowing it.
The pair are about to enter the arena for their freestyle class with a routine that will leave the audience picking their jaws up off the floor.
I’ve known Tik since I was a young preteen, learning to ride at the barn his parents owned and operated in Vancouver, BC, Canada. Back then I only knew of him from a distance as he and his father, a Grand Prix rider, worked over jump courses in the arena after the hordes of young girls and boys had gone home after a day full of lessons and camps.
We met again, by chance, many years later at a horse clinic in Ocala, FL, when someone called out his name and I knew it was him – how many “Tik”s could there possibly be? In the time between our meetings, Tik’s study of horses and riding has taken him all over the world. He has worked with some of the most accomplished horsemen and women, competed on the world stage successfully and is sharing his knowledge across the country and from his farm in Citra, FL with his wife, Sinead.
In early 2015, Tik started playing with the idea of entering The Retired Racehorse Project’s Thoroughbred Makeover at The Kentucky Horse Park. The Makeover is a way to promote racehorses after retirement, with the hopes of increasing the demand for them in the equine sports market. Not having fully committed to entering for that year, Tik was willing to wait for just the right horse to come along. He admits that picking good horses isn’t his strong suit:
“Being a good rider doesn’t necessarily make you good at picking horses and my skill at picking horses isn’t that great. I really value the people in my life that can do that.”
Dr. Reed Zimmer was just that person.
Dr. Reed Zimmer is a vet in Arizona who was the missing link between Tik and the perfect horse – the piece of the puzzle Tik adamantly believes is the key to successful racehorse re homing.
Dr. Zimmer sees thousands of racehorses a year, but something about this racetrack flunk was different; he was destined for a different kind of greatness. The 2010 red colt, Mr. Pleasantree, was a son to one of the richest racehorses in the US – Pleasantly Perfect. In 2011, the colt found himself at the Barrets Equine Sale; when his reserve of $1900 was not met he made his way to Turf Paradise in Arizona where he raced. By December of 2014, he had 20 starts under his girth, winning four of those, and picked up career earnings of $17,000 – but fame on the track was not in his future.
At their first meeting, Dr. Zimmer purchased the horse for his girlfriend at the time, Kara Toye. Kara fondly remembers him: “I was thrilled and started riding him immediately. My parents train racehorses and I kept him at their barn on the track at Turf Paradise. I would ride him right after I was done galloping in the morning to the neighboring property- which was the arena for the Phoenix Mounted Police. He still had his race shoes on and still lived at the track, but he never faltered anywhere I took him.” When circumstances forced Kara to sell, US Eventer Liz Milikan entered the equation and she was the final step in Remarkable reaching Tik.
Tik finally had the perfect makeover candidate, and with a nod to one of his father’s horses and honoring Liz with the suffix 54 (one which she uses to identify horses from her barn,) – one “Remarkable 54” was born.
Less than one year after Remarkable’s last stride on the racetrack, the duo won the freestyle competition at The Makeover in Kentucky. It was the beginning of an incredible partnership. Today, Tik and Remarkable travel the country together competing or doing demos. They showcase the flexibility of racehorses to succeed in a number of disciplines once in retirement. Although it wasn’t always easy, Tik admits, their transformation took time and a lot of patience from the both of them.
“He taught me that compromise with a horse as a positive thing, a lot of times when I compromise with him I end up liking his idea more.”
And, irregardless of whose idea it was, their freestyle routine left everyone in awe.
When I first met the pair that sunny Saturday, they were just moments away from entering the arena to perform that freestyle routine agai – and it’s not something anyone watching will quickly forget: The two enter the arena – Remarkable with no halter or bridle – just a crisp white saddle pad with Tik’s logo and a meticulously maintained saddle. They match stride lengths, fast and slow, as Tik runs beside his big, graceful, horse. Remarkable often faces the crowd, ears pricked forward, as if to make sure everyone is still paying attention. Tik, with a warm smile, frequently reassures his partner that yes, we are. Tik hops up on Remarkable and the two cruise the arena like old friends on an easy morning ride, still no halter or bridle. The morning sun is behind them and the two are often just a black silhouette where the lines between man and horse are indistinguishable.
Finally, as the audience is fully entranced in the pair, Tik stands up on Remarkable’s bum and everyone is hooked; We are all in love with this big chestnut Thoroughbred just as much as Tik is.
Their ease follows the two into their other classes over the weekend as they compete in Dressage and Show Jumping. Their teamwork pays off as Remarkable finishes second in Dressage (behind Tik’s other OTTB mount, Johnny Football, who he co-owns with Dr. Reed Zimmer,) second in show jumping and – to no ones surprise – first in the Freestyle.
Tik is now more committed to OTTBs than ever before, understanding that the right horse and the right rider can be an unstoppable combination – something that is being echoed through the professional equine world. “They were just one of any breed that came into my barn before,” he admits,”but I’ve gotten a lot more into supporting them and riding them now that I did [the makeover.] When you get a good one there’s just nothing like it. I wouldn’t be upset if all the horses in my barn were [off track] Thoroughbreds, I love them.”
Before Remarkable, Tik spent his life studying horses, becoming an expert in all things equine – honing his craft.
Before Tik, Remarkable did very much the same – training to be the best he could be.
When that didn’t work out for Remarkable, Tik was there to help him find another path, building from the foundation they already had. Together the pair are on a new journey together, one that takes the knowledge and training they each bring from their former lives and propels them into a future that will, no doubt, be remarkable.
You can follow Tik and Remarkable’s journey from Tik’s website where Tik offers other OTTB he has re trained for sale or syndication. Tik is available for lessons and training from his home in Citra, FL, at Copperline Farm and at various facilities around the country. Many thanks to Tik for taking the time out of his busy schedule to have us out to his farm and to my Dad for being my sidekick on this one. This one’s for you, Dad.